In a world where everyone has a mobile phone, a personalised ringtone can say a lot about you.

Welcome to the once-remote Aboriginal community of Gapuwiyak in northeast Arnhem Land in the Northern Territory, where individual ringtones reveal rich insights into lives of the Yolngu people.

From ancestral clan songs, animal calls and birdsongs to hip-hop artists and gospel tunes, a Yolngu ringtone always comes with a great story. It might be the music a young woman dances to in a city nightclub, or a clan song invoking memories of ancestors and country.

Yet, at the same time, these phones make Yolngu vulnerable to a range of threats, from sorcerers to tele-scammers, creating new pressures and dislocations in a society already living with profound loss and intergenerational change.

Yolngu people are renowned as first-rate storytellers with a keen sense of humour. In Ringtone, Yolngu Aboriginal families offer glimpses into their lives and relationships through their choice of ringtones and reveal the advantages and perils of their new connectivity.

Made collaboratively by Miyarrka Media, a new media arts collective of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal filmmakers, Ringtone is a beautiful, funny and surprisingly moving film about the connections, intrusions and demands brought by mobile phones to a once remote community in northern Australia.

These days mobile phones are useful. Even in hunting or in the bush: at circumcision time, ceremony time, funeral time. … It’s like wearing clothes. We keep the phones close to our bodies. Always, everywhere, together.

— Paul Gurrumuruwuy, co-director

Ringtone has been screened at several international film festivals throughout 2014 including the Virginia Film Festival and a screening at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, in Washington DC, USA.



Participants (in order of appearance, with their ringtones, if known)
Paul Gurrumuruwuy Wunungmurra - “Ngarra ga marttji djiwarrlil” [I’m going to heaven]
Mike Yamitjawuy Wunungmurra - “This Ain’t Livin” Tupac
Margaret Dhamany Marrkula - “Limurr Godkal Galikthirr” [We’re getting closer to God]
Samantha Yawulwuy Wunungmurra - “Bapinyga Manikay” [Sarratoga fish song]
Rowena Lay’pu Wunungmurra - “Wurray Mokuy”
Joyce Walikurr Wunungmurra - “Guku” [Honey Manikay]
Lindsay Lupurru Wunungmurra - “Garrkman” [Green Frog]
George Lulparr Wanambi
Enid Gurunulmiwuy Wunungmurra - “Garrkuluk Gapu” [Water]
Warren Balpatji Gurruwiwi
David Wapit Munungurr - “Wagilak manikay”
Joseph Yampulpura Wunungmurra - Stevie B “4U”
Georgina Warritja Wunungmurra - Life, R2BEES
Xena Garratjawuy Wanambi
Curtis Dhambali Gaykamungu - “Yirritja Guku” [Honey]
Ruth Garrgnirr Wanambi - “Wak-wak” [Black Crow]
Release dates
Video/DVD release date
10 August 2016
G - general
Ronin Films

English and Yolngu Matha with English subtitles

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2018, Ringtone, <>, retrieved 16 June 2024

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